Basics / How to say hello in Sarkese

When learning a new language, the very first step usually is to learn how to say “hello”, “goodbye” and “how are you” in the language – Ben, cůmanchon důve chůnna! – So, let’s start with that 😉

On this page, you will find most of the basic phrases one needs to know in order to greet someone in Sarkese properly like a pro 🙂 There are five thematic sections with basic vocabulary and phrases which a standard “hello-goodbye” encounter in Sarkese usually entails – plus three model dialogues at the very end. Nevertheless, since, like in any language, saying “hello/goodbye” in Sarkese has its standard rules, which may actually differ from how we greet someone in English, French or even in the other two Norman languages in the Channel Islands, there are a few things to understand and keep in mind. See below the four expandable commentaries, which you may always skip, but don’t forget to come back to them later 😉

to learn more, click here

Sarkese, or Sark Norman, despite being a Norman language (not French!) is a language very different to the other two Norman tongues spoken in the Channel Islands, Guernsey Norman, spoken in Guernsey, or Jersey Norman (Jèrriais), spoken in Jersey. Even though genetically very close, these three Norman languages may and often do differ in many ways, be it pronunciation, grammar or vocabulary, which concerns even the way of saying hello or goodbye. As we never use the Guernsey Norman “warro” for hello or “à la perchoïne” for until next time in Sark, but “bonjhůr” and “á la préchéne”, we never reply to “how are you” with “j’sî d’chárme”, as they would in Jersey with their “Jé sis d’charme”. Usign non-Sarkese phrases or vocabulary in Sarkese, even though Norman, is like trying to use Dutch words or German phrases when speaking to a native English speaker in English 😉 To learn more on the differences between Sarkese and the other two Norman languages, click here.

Let’s remember: No matter how similar it may look or sound to us, as we don’t use Dutch or German words in English, we don’t use non-Sarkese Norman vocabulary, such as the Guernsey ‘warro’ or ‘à la perchoïne’ or the Jersey ‘jé sis d’charme’ in Sarkese.

to learn more, click here

In not so distant past, there were actually two Romance languages used in SarkSarkese or Sark Norman, the native Norman language of the Island of Sark, which was the spoken language we used in daily life and that we were brought up in, and French, which was the written language (for documents, law and literature) as well as the language of the church and education. At the school, before WW1, it was therefore in French, a different language to Sarkese, in which one learned how to write and read – although not generally spoken by everyone, many people were able to converse in it to varying degree (with Sarkese pronunciation and vocabulary often mixed in).

This led to a phenomenon known as “Sark French”. The so-called “Sark French” is not technically a language, but moments when a Sarkese speaker switches to French or rather French-sounding Sarkese, so a person who doesn’t speak any Sarkese, may better understand to what we are actually saying. As French is no longer actively spoken in Sark, fully replaced by English, such situations are extremely rare today, limited to saying hello and goodbye in public when non-speakers are involved. For example, since a non-speaker would most probably have a problem to comprehend the Sarkese “á bětô”, some speakers would intentionally switch to French and say “órevuár”, which is actually the French “au revoir”, a phrase well known around the world, so everyone would understand we are saying our goodbye and not something else. It concerns only a limited number of words when in public: using “bönjhůr”=’bonjour’ instead of the proper “bonjhůr”, meaning “hello”, or “órevuár”=’au revoir’ instead of our “á bětô”, “goodbye”, as well as “sava”-‘ça va’, instead of “Cůme či’k t’ê?”, for “how are you”. These French phrases and words don’t mean anything in Sarkese. They are not considered proper words by the speakers, i.e. not even loan words, but simply French. Their use (instead of Sarkese words) in Sarkese is therefore the same thing as if we said “au revoir” in English instead of “goodbye” or “ça va” instead of “how are you”. The so-called “Sark French”, no matter the historic use of the term, has nothing to do with Sarkese, as it is simply French when spoken in Sark by a Sarkee. To learn more on the difference between Sark Norman and Sark French, click here.

Let’s remember: even though everyone knows what the French ‘ça va’ or ‘au revoir’ mean, they are not Sark Norman words, and their use in Sarkese equals using ‘ça va’ and ‘au revoir’ in English instead of “how are you” or “goodbye”.

to learn more, click here

Due to the loss of distinction between “you” for singular, originally “thou” (How art thou?), and “you” for plural in Standard English, an English native speaker should always pay attention to which pronoun a person we are talking to may be addressed with in Sarkese. Similarly like in French, the two concerned pronouns are “tu”, “thou”-singular, and “û̥”, “you”-plural (like ‘vous’ in French, but without the ‘v’). The basic rule, which Martin makes the children of the Sark School recite all the time, is that if we call a person by his or her first name in English (Martin, Jane, David etc.), we use “tu” in Sarkese. If you don’t call a person “Harry” or “Jane”, but e.g. “Mister Carré” or “Miss Perrée”, we go with “û̥”-“vû̥”, as if we were talking to a group of people which we always address with the pronouns “û̥”. Please mind that verbal forms change accordingly.

Moreover, we distinguish between you-object and you-subject. With “tu” (non-autonomous subject), we have to learn also “tě” (autonomous object) and “te” (non-autonomous object), and with “û̥” (non-autonomous subject), also “vû̥” (both autonomous and non-autonomous object). It may sound difficult, but it’s pretty easy – it works the same in English, though not with you, but for example with “I”-subject and “me”-object as in, “I like you”, not “Me like you”, and “You like me” and not “You like I” 😉

Let’s remember: in Sarkese, unlike in English, we strictly distinguish between “thou” (informal you) and “you” (formal you). When we say “how are you”, we have to choose the correct pronoun.

to learn more click, here

Even though a usual “how are you” conversation in Sark Norman may seem as more relaxed than in English, with regard to how we reply to such a question, there are clear rules that should be obeyed for how we greet a person and what we usually ask and say.

In Sarkese, unlike in some English varieties, when we say “how are you”, we do expect the person to reply in the first place and at the same time the person is allowed to reply truthfully. This means that when a person says “How are you?” we are not allowed to reply simply with “Thank you, how are you?”, which would be surprising and sound bizarre to Sarkese ears, but must first state how the person is, f.e. “well”, “great”, “not great” or even “bad” etc., truly anything what we want to share about how we feel and how our day has been, while respecting some general common sense and reflecting the relation we have to the person. Only afterwards, we thank the person explicitly and then ask back the same question “how are you” – but never before replying to the first how are you

Let’s remember: In Sarkese, unlike in English, you always have to reply to the question “how are you?” with a proper answer first, e.g. “I’m well!”, always adding “thank you”, and only after ask the question back.

A) saying ‘hello’ and ‘goodbye’

In Sarkese, we have one single word to cover the long variety of greetings there are in English. For “hello”, “hi”, “cheers”, “good morning”, “good afternoon” or even “good evening”, we have one sole “bonjhůr” 😉 practical, isn’t it? On the contrary, for saying goodbye, we can choose from a standard range of phrases, with the most commonly used, selected below:


á bětô

á la préchéne

á la préchéne fê

á la sméne ki vent

Ět un bû̥n jeǔ!

Éyè un bû̥n jeǔ!








hello, hi, good morning, good evening etc.

goodbye, bye etc.

see you

until next time

see you next week

Have a good day! (informal, one person only)

Have a good day! (formal or plural)

to learn more, click here

In Sarkese, unlike in English, Czech, German or French, we lack the standard variety of greetings. There is only one simple word which covers them all, and that is “bonjhůr”. Our “bonjhůr” is used for “good morning”, “good afternoon”, “good evening”, “hello”, “hi” etc. at any any occasion, formal or informal, when greeting a person we know very well or a complete stranger we just met for the very first time. To learn more on the unsual form of “bonjhůr”, check the SNDO entry.

The same applies for the Sarkese phrase for “goodbye”, á bětô as for when we may use. “á bětô” is suitable for saying a goodbye to someone, we’ve just met, or someone very close. To learn more see the SNDO entry on “á bětô” – and again, remember the so-called Sark French “órevuár” is not Sarekse, only “á bětô” is acceptable in Sark Norman.

Finally, when saying goodbye, we can also specify when we are expecting to see the person again. The most common phrase is the indefinite “á la préchéne” or “á la préchéne fê”, meaning “see you” or “until next time”, but we may also say e.g. “á Leûndi”, “see you on Monday”, or “á chinč’eure”, “see you at five”, “á la sméne ki vent”, “see you next week”, etc.

Very often, when saying our goodbyes, we also wish “a good day”, “un bû̥n jeǔ”, to the person we are talking to. However, if we want to say “Have a good day.”, we have to choose a corect verbal form of “to have” in the imperative mode: a) “ět” for singular-informal, so “Ět un bû̥n jeǔ!“, or “éyè” for plural (and singular-formal), when talking to a group of people, so “Éyè un bû̥n jeǔ!.”

B) asking and replying to “how are you”

As said above, in Sarkese, like in many other European languages, but unlike in English, we distinguish between the informal “you” for one person only, which used to be “thou” in English, and the proper “you”, which is used both for a group of people or when addressing one person in a formal way.

The basic rule Martin makes the children of the Sark School memorize by heart over and over again is: “If you call a person by his or her first name in English, you use “tu”-“tě” in Sarkese. If you don’t call a person by his or her first name, you go with “û̥”-“vû̥”, which is also used for a group of people”. In the first case, when asking “how are you” (informal for one person only) we have to go with “Cůme či’k t’ê?”, in the latter (formal for one person or a group of people) with “Cůme či’k ǔ̥z’ête?”.

Cůme či’k t’ê?

Cůme či’k ǔ̥z’ête?*

J’sî …

– ben.

– maṅifike.


pâ tro mal








How are you? (informal, one person only)

How are you (formal and plural)

I am / I am doing …

– well.



not so bad

* Especially those who speak French, should bear in mind that in Sarkese we distinguish between “û̥”-subject (non-autonomous verbal subject form) and “vû̥”-subject (autonomous pronoun).

** Mind the difference between “mal”, meaning “bad”, and “mǎ”, meaning “pain”.

C) thanking and asking back

After we reply to “how are you”, it is absolutely imperative to say “thank you” in Sarkese, as in the automatic “J’sî ben, mérsî!”, “I’m well, thank you.” Moreover, it’s also good manners to ask the question back after we reply, which can be done simply by adding “And you?”, although we have to remember again, that we distinguish between “tu” and “û̥”, which in this case take their respective autonomous forms “tě”-you (informal, one person only) and “vû̥”-you (formal or plural).


mérsî ben dê fê







thanks, thank you

thank you very much

thank you

And you? (informal)

And you? (formal)

* The verb-like form “mérsŷ”, pronounced with a yod, is much less common than “mérsî“. If used, it appears immediately after replying to “how are you”, as in “J’sî ben, mérsŷ.” as opposed to the more common “J’sî ben, mérsî.”.

D) passing one’s regards

Very often, when we meet someone whose relatives and family members we haven’t seen or heard from in a while, we ask the person to pass our regards to them – which is considered good manners in Sark. The phrase in Sarkese is “á fěre sê comłŷmân”, lit. “to make one’s compliments” and we therefore say “Make my compliment to …”. Standardly, we have to distinguish whether we are addressing the person with the informal “tě”-“tu” or the formal “vû̥”-“û̥”. Even though in “pass my regards”, which is formally an order (imperative mode), we don’t mention the pronoun explicitly, we have to choose an appropriate verbal forms: “fét” (informal) and “fěžè” (formal or plural).

Fét mê comłŷmân

Fěžè mê comłŷmân

– á vůtře fame.

– á vû̥ jân.

– á Márŷ.

s’i t’płê

s’i vû̥ płê








Pass my regards to … (informal)

Pass my regards to … (formal or plural)

to your wife (formal)

to your parents (formal or plural)

to Mary

please (informal)

please (formal or plural)

F) asking “where are you going?”

Depending on whom we are talking to and general context, we may ask the other person where he or she is going. When asking “where” when asking, we can choose in the constructions “ẏ ů’k” and “ů ê’k”, which may be used indiscriminately, although the latter is used only by our oldest native speakers.

Ẏ ů’k tu t’an vâ?

Ẏ ů k’û̥ vǔ̥z’n alè?

J’m an vê *

á la Siňeurrî.

o Ptit Séṙ.


– sŷ mě.








Where are you going? (informal)

Where are you going? (formal or plural)

I am going …

to the Seigneurie.

– to Little Sark.

– to the Eperquerie.

to my place / home.

* Remember that the pronunciation of ‘ê’ changes depending on its position within a sentence. If it is in a stressed open position, it is pronounced as the English “eye”. In different positions (if something follows), it is usualy pronounced as a long stable “è”. If we say simply “Je m’an vê.” which means “I’m leaving”, we would pronounce it as “eye”, however if something follows, like in “Je m’an vê á la Siňeurrî.”, meaning “I’m going to the Seigneurie.”, it is pronounced as a simple long ‘è’.

click here, to see the dialogue

Hello John!

Hello Élie! How are you?

I’m well, thank you. And you?

Great, thank you! And how’s the family?

They are doing well too. Thank you very much!

Well, see you, Élie!

Good bye, John, bye!

click here, to see the dialogue

Good day (my lady)!

Good day (my good sir)!

How do you do?

I’m well, thank you very much. And you? How do you do?

I’m well, thank you. What a beautiful weather we are having today!

Indeed, the sun is marvelous!

Good bye (my lady). Have a nice day!

Thank you! And say hello to your wife.

click here to see the dialogue

Hello Jane! How are you!

Hello Victor! I’m well, thank you. And you! Are you doing well?

Not so bad, thank you.

Are you going to the Hall as well?

No, I’m going to the shop. What’s at the Hall?

I’m going to have a beer with John and Michael.

Oh well, please, say hello from me to everyone.

Come and join us if you have the time.

Sorry, I have visitors tonight!

Well, next time then! Have a nice day, Jane.

Thank you, Victor, good bye.